Weekend In Austin Texas – What To Eat

Weekend in Austin - Classic Austin Food Truck Park

I recently spent a weekend in Austin, Texas for a bachelor party and last fall the Fresh Hospitality squad did an epic food trip to Austin where we hit 17 restaurants in just over 24 hours (believe me I was stuffed after that one).

Being in the food business, I often get people asking me where to eat when they spend a weekend in Austin – so I thought it would be a great idea to create a quick blog post that lists some of my absolute favorite spots in Austin.

I don’t want to bombard with you with a ton of places so I’ve created a very selective list of only the best spots and ones that I most enjoyed while in Austin. Don’t miss the BBQ spots at the end! 

Epic Food Trucks

Gourdoughs – Big. Fat. Donuts.

http://gourdoughs.com/ 

Mandatory breakfast/brunch stop in Austin. You’ll get to experience the classic Austin style food truck park and chow down on some epically large and delicious donuts. My recommendation is to get the Mother Clucker for yoru savory fix (donut topped with fried chicken and a honey butter glaze) and polish off your sweet tooth with a delicious Heavenly Hash (brownie bites and marshmallow topped donuts). No weekend in Austin is complete without a stop at Gourdoughs. 

East Side King

http://www.eskaustin.com/

A delectable Thai and Asian food truck in Austin’s “dirty sixth” neighborhood. Warning – this food can be super spicy. It’s a mouth-burning can’t-stop-eating must-take-another-bite kind of heat that lingers for 20 minutes after you’re done eating – but its so damn good. You have to get the grilled bread as well – one of my all time favorite treats. Go here for dinner and enjoy the killer scene at this Austin food truck park.

Beer Gardens & Bars

Weekend in Austin - Bangers on Rainey Street

Bangers

http://bangersaustin.com/

Two of the three bars I recommend checking out are in Austin’s “Rainey Street” neighborhood. These are my personal favorite two, but the entire area has such a cool vibe that you will fall in love as soon as you set foot on the sidewalk. Bangers is a classic beer garden – with over 100 beers on tap and incredible – I mean incredible – sausages and brats. Sit down, enjoy a few beers – and don’t forget to try one of their ridiculous sausages.

Container Bar

http://austincontainerbar.com/

Another Rainey street bar – built almost entirely from shipping containers. This is a great spot to chill during the day. They have 2 sets of cornhole and possibly the most killer Fugees-inspired playlist I’ve ever heard. Between Container Bar and Bangers you will get a great feel for the scene in Austin and no weekend in Austin is complete without hitting up Rainey street.

Easy Tiger

http://easytigeraustin.com/

A uniquely Austin “Bakery and Beer Garden” – Easy Tiger’s baked goods are delicious – but the place really opens up at night when the beer garden comes to life. Sitting outside by the river you can enjoy a huge selection of beers on tap and play ping pong on one of their nearby ping pong tables. Plus, from Easy Tiger you can walk to Austin’s famous 6th street.

Tacos & Burgers

Torchys Tacos

http://torchystacos.com/

What would a trip to Austin be without Tacos? Torchy’s is a classic Austin taco spot with a great variety of delectable tacos. Check out the location on 1st street for another authentic Austin food truck park.

Tacodeli

http://www.tacodeli.com/

Another Austin taco joint that locals rave about – Tacodeli is the favorite of online marketing genius Noah Kagan (who happens to be an Austin native) – he recommends the Cowboy taco.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar

http://www.hopdoddy.com/

I had to throw in a few delicious burger joints as well. These are two local burger chains that are both great. Hopdoddy is a very upscale farm-to-table burger type of place with craft beers on tap and a killer atmosphere. If you’re in the mood for a good burger, you can’t go wrong here.

P. Terry’s

http://www.pterrys.com/

P. Terry’s is a much more old school double drive thru type burger joint – but if you want a delicious shake and a classic burger experience P. Terry’s is the place to go.

Barbecue Joints

Franklin Barbecue

https://franklinbarbecue.com/

Considered the premier barbecue spot in Austin. You’ll need fortitude to even attempt this one. The line stretches for blocks and blocks and people bring lawn chairs just to wait. That’s what it takes to eat at what’s widely considered one of the greatest BBQ restaurants in America.

La Barbecue

http://www.labarbecue.com/

Franklin BBQ’s feisty young competitor. La barbecue is considered among many in the BBQ world to be the new up-and-comer challenging Franklin for the best BBQ in Austin (and some of the seriously most insanely delicious beef brisket in the world). The wait is a bit more manageable here, and if you get there early enough you might be able to sneak in without too much of a wait. I still dream of the brisket here.

Salt Lick BBQ

https://www.saltlickbbq.com/

A world famous BBQ destination about 45 mins outside of Austin. The kind of place you go all afternoon for the live music, the killer gardens, and to soak in the scenery – but don’t miss the incredible BBQ as well.

Louis Mueller Barbecue

http://www.louiemuellerbarbecue.com/

An absolutely classic barbecue spot in Taylor, Texas (about a 45 min drive out of Austin) – Louis Mueller has been open since 1949. The beef brisket and the burnt ends are insane! Absolutely worth the drive for some truly authentic old-school Texas BBQ.

Matt Bodnar - Weekend in Austin

I hope you enjoyed this list – please let me know in the comments some of your favorite food spots and where you would eat for a weekend in Austin!

My Favorite Places To Eat In New York City (And The 101 Best Restaurants In America)

I lived in NYC for a couple years out of school while I was working on Wall Street. Needless to say, I took full advantage of the amazing restaurant scene the city has to offer.

This list is by no means even close to comprehensive or complete – but I wanted to share some of my favorite spots – broken out more or less into a few different categories depending on what you are looking for.

This is an intentionally limited list of places to visit – the NYC restaurant scene can be so overwhelming sometimes its better to have fewer choices than too many.

Exceedingly Pricey Or Impossible To Get In Or Both

  • Per Se (very hard to get in)
  • Momofuku Ko (very hard to get in, but not as expensive)
  • Masa (this is one of the top 10 most expensive Sushi restaurants in the world)
  • Le Bernadin

Expensive But Not Crazy Expensive

  • Jean Georges
  • Daniel
  • Del Posto
  • Gramercy Tavern
  • Gotham Bar & Grill
  • Gordon Ramsay at the London
  • Adour Alain Ducasse

Midrange… A Bit More Casual But Still Great

  • Marc Forgione (I love this spot, most recent inductee into Iron Chefdom)
  • Bobo in the West Village (not to be confused with Babbo.. order the duck breast!)
  • Babbo
  • Momofuku Ssam Bar (Pork Buns… Mandatory. But the real deal is Bo Ssam, an entire pork butt. Need a minimum of 6 people and reserve 1 day in advance)
  • Hearth (Marco Canora)
  • WD~50 (crazy weird / molecular gastronomy)
  • The Breslan @ Ace Hotel
  • Minetta Tavern
  • Graffiti
  • Eataly
  • Shake Shack
  • Crif Dog
  • Momofuku Noodle
  • Momofuku Milk Bar (can you tell I’m a huge fan of David Chang? Check out this awesome profile of him)
  • Korilla BBQ (bonus addition… this is technically a Food Truck)

Coffee & Breakfast Spots

  • Stumptown @ the Ace Hotel (Stumptown… my favorite coffee of all time, check out my NYC Coffee Adventures for a few more spots)
  • Café Condesa in West Village (must order – Chorizo Croissant Sandwich)

Unique Bar Scenes

  • Wilfie & Nell
  • PDT aka Please Don’t Tell (need to call at 3pm same day to get reservations – extremely exclusive mixology bar with a secret entrance inside a phone booth)

The 101 Best Restaurants In America

And, as promised, the Daily Mail’s recent list of the 101 Best Restaurants in America. Read the full thing here.

They put together a tremendous resource  for finding the absolute best dining experiences across the United States. Congrats to Nashville locals Catbird Seat for making the list!

  1. The French Laundry, Yountville, Calif.
  2. Gramercy Tavern, New York, N.Y.
  3. Le Bernardin, New York, N.Y.
  4. Momofuku Ssäm Bar, New York, N.Y.
  5. Eleven Madison Park, New York, N.Y.
  6. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
  7. ABC Kitchen, New York, N.Y.
  8. Babbo, New York, N.Y.
  9. Girl & the Goat, Chicago, Ill.
  10. Cochon, New Orleans, La.
  11. Shake Shack, New York, N.Y.
  12. Jean Georges, New York, N.Y.
  13. Daniel, New York, N.Y.
  14. Alinea, Chicago, Ill.
  15. Chez Panisse, Berkeley, Calif.
  16. Del Posto, New York, N.Y.
  17. Per Se, New York, N.Y.
  18. Commander’s Palace, New Orleans, La.
  19. Zuni Cafe, San Francisco, Calif.
  20. Animal, Los Angeles, Calif.
  21. Gotham Bar & Grill, New York, N.Y.
  22. Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles, Calif.
  23. Bouchon Bistro, Yountville, Calif.
  24. Husk, Charleston, S.C.
  25. Joël Robuchon, Las Vegas, Nev.
  26. Franklin BBQ, Austin, Texas
  27. Mission Chinese, San Francisco, Calif.
  28. August, New Orleans, La.
  29. Masa, New York, N.Y.
  30. Bar Tartine, San Francisco, Calif.
  31. Marea, New York, N.Y.
  32. WD-50, New York, N.Y.
  33. Vetri, Philadelphia, Pa.
  34. Beast, Portland, Ore.
  35. The Publican, Chicago, Ill.
  36. Ippudo, New York, N.Y.
  37. Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Va.
  38. Blackbird, Chicago, Ill.
  39. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven, Conn.
  40. Galatoire’s, New Orleans, La.
  41. Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, New York, N.Y.
  42. La Taqueria, San Francisco, Calif.
  43. Bazaar, Los Angeles, Calif.
  44. Torrisi Italian Specialties, New York, N.Y.
  45. Guy Savoy, Las Vegas, Nev.
  46. Spiaggia, Chicago, Ill.
  47. Xi’An Famous Foods, Queens, N.Y.
  48. Di Fara, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  49. Spago, Los Angeles, Calif.
  50. Next, Chicago, Ill.
  51. Cut, Los Angeles, Calif.
  52. Coi, San Francisco, Calif
  53. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  54. Quince, San Francisco, Calif.
  55. FIG, Charleston, S.C.
  56. Michael Mina, San Francisco, Calif.
  57. é by José Andrés, Las Vegas, Nev.
  58. Frasca Food & Wine, Boulder, Colo.
  59. NoMad, New York, N.Y.
  60. Bern’s Steak House, Tampa, Fla.
  61. Alan Wong’s, Honolulu, Hawaii
  62. O-Ya, Boston, Mass.
  63. Clio, Boston, Mass.
  64. State Bird Provisions, San Francisco, Calif.
  65. Komi, Washington, D.C.
  66. Craigie on Main, Cambridge, Mass.
  67. TRU, Chicago, Ill.
  68. Yardbird Southern Table and Bar, Miami, Fla.
  69. McCrady’s, Charleston, S.C.
  70. Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami, Fla.
  71. Kreuz Market, Lockhart, Texas
  72. Lucques, Los Angeles, Calif.
  73. Le Pigeon, Portland, Ore.
  74. SriPraPhai, Queens, N.Y.
  75. Hominy Grill, Charleston, S.C.
  76. Zahav, Philadelphia, Pa.
  77. Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix, Ariz.
  78. Al Di La, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  79. City Grocery, Oxford, Miss.
  80. The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, Calif.
  81. Fore Street, Portland, Maine
  82. Michael’s Genuine, Miami, Fla.
  83. Jaleo, Las Vegas, Nev.
  84. Al Forno, Providence, R.I.
  85. Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, Las Vegas, Nev.
  86. Dahlia Lounge, Seattle, Wash.
  87. The Barn at Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tenn.
  88. Canlis, Seattle, Wash.
  89. Congress, Austin, Texas
  90. Underbelly, Houston, Texas
  91. Catbird Seat, Nashville, Tenn.
  92. Woodshed Smokehouse, Fort Worth, Texas
  93. Sushi Yasuda, New York, N.Y.
  94. Fearing’s, Dallas, Texas
  95. Minibar, Washington, D.C.
  96. The Four Seasons, New York, N.Y.
  97. Benu, San Francisco, Calif.
  98. Stella!, New Orleans, La.
  99. Providence, Los Angeles, Calif.
  100. Rasika, Washington, D.C.
  101. Lola, Cleveland, Ohio

Lastly, a friend of mine recently started a blog all about New York City – really great read and has a bunch of stuff worth checking out if you are visiting or live in NYC.

Hope you enjoy and as always – stay tuned on Twitter.

Image Credit KayOne73 on Flickr.

 

How Taziki’s Leapt From Three to Twenty Stores in Under Five Years

How did Fresh Hospitality take Taziki’s from a local favorite with three locations to #32 on the Fast Casual Top 100 Movers & Shakers with more than 20 locations now open?

I recently shared this entire story (and much more) on a panel at the Fast Casual Executive Summit.

Our panel told the story of Taziki’s fast paced growth by looking at how Fresh Hospitality used systems and technology to create a rapidly scalable brand.  The full panel is embedded below (40 minutes) as well as my particular portion (~10 minutes) focusing specifically on how critical systems and technology are to scalability and growth.  I’ve also embedded the slide deck that we used for the presentation as well.

(Forgive the video & sound quality – this was recorded on an iPhone!)

Systems Are Essential to Scalability & Growth (me)

Restaurant Management Systems (full panel)

The Taziki’s Story (slide deck)

 

Hope you enjoy and as always – would love to follow up and chat more on Twitter!

Four Things You Must Do in Chicago During The NRA Show

So you’re in Chicago for the NRA Show and you want to know all the cool spots to check out in your free time? I’m not a local but I visit Chicago quite a bit on business and the below destinations come highly recommended. (click the restaurant names for a link to their site)

Xoco

Rick Bayless’s Xoco is shaping the future of the fast casual industry – and the food is just plain awesome. This is a mandatory stop every time I am in Chicago and I *highly* recommend checking it out.  What should you order?

Ahogada – this torta – served sitting in a bowl of tomato broth, is one of the signature items on the menu.

Caldos – the “soups” here – any of them are awesome but in particular I would get the Pork Belly (coming from a full blown pork addict).

Churros w/ Chocolate dipping sauce…. Heavenly.

Also – check out the acqua frescas – I recommend the one with Hibiscus

Sunda

Billy Dec and the Rockit Ranch crew (one of Chicago’s biggest restaurant players) really outdid themselves when they created Sunda (great video about Sunda’s creation here). This beautifully designed Asian fusion restaurant sports a massive menu, including a full sushi bar, of delicious food.

Must order…

the Peared Sake – literally tastes like you are drinking a chilled pear – I get this every time.

The menu is so huge picking favorites is like picking children – but I would say the Cripsy Rice with Tuna is one of my favs, along with the Rock Shrimp Tempura.

The Doughnut Vault

A well hidden food craze in Chicago. This entire restaurant is jam packed into literally a hallway in the back of a building. You won’t even see the building walking by, but you can’t miss the line of people pouring out the door. They tweet how long the line is and what doughnuts they are running out of so make sure to keep an eye on them @doughnutvault so they don’t run out!

If you want to hit these guys up, they are CLOSED on Sunday/Monday so keep that in mind. Well worth making the journey for their delicious and oversized doughnuts.

Big Star

An awesome bar and tex mex joint in Chicago’s Wicker Park. The food is great (you won’t believe how tiny their kitchen is) but you really go for the atmosphere. Great place to sit and have a drink and a few tacos for happy hour.

The thing to order here is a glass of Templeton Rye. A small batch rye native to Iowa and tough to find anywhere but the Midwest – one of the smoothest and most delicious rye whiskies you will ever drink. Templeton Rye was the choice drink for none other than Al Capone who actually bootlegged it for a number of years during prohibition.

Their food menu is short and sweet but their whiskey menu is deep.

Hope you enjoyed my suggestions! Let me know what you think in the comments and on Twitter and enjoy NRA 2012!

Five Random Life Lessons From Danny Meyer

danny meyer salt shaker

As you know I’m a huge fan of Danny Meyer and everything he’s done in the hospitality business. If you’re familiar with the Salt Shaker Theory – then you will enjoy these life lessons from Danny. I love reading great books about business and entrepreneurship and Setting the Table is no exception. Here are a few of the great life lessons I took from Setting the Table.

Give First

“I would enter the restaurant business with a potent combination of my father’s entrepreneurial spirit and my grandfathers’ legacies of strong business leadership, social responsibility, and philanthropic activism. And I would have a chance to give others two things I craved: good food and warm hospitality. I had begun to understand that business and life have a lot in common with a hug. The best way to get a good one was first to give one.”

“If I want our guests to take an interest in us, I’d better take an equal interest in them.”

This is really one of the most important lessons in business and in life. Give to others first and help other people. That’s how you become a valuable resource and ultimately how you build strong relationships.

Have Fun Being Serious

“ ‘We have fun taking service seriously,’ he said. ‘And as for perfection, we just hide our mistakes better than anyone else!’ That was a refreshing insight for me as I continued to hone my own version of hospitality.”

I am a huge proponent of this. Work hard and play hard. You have to be able to have fun with what you’re doing but also be able to take it seriously. I think the way Danny phrases it is perfect – have FUN taking it seriously.

Be Respectful

“‘Leave the campsite neater than I had found it’ (That concept remains, for me, one of the most significant measures of success in business, and in life.)”

I take this quote to mean a lot of different things. Don’t be selfish, don’t be entitled, be respectful to others. It’s such a simple quote but the implications are far reaching for how you should behave in business and in life.

Make People Feel Special

“Everyone goes through life with an invisible sign hanging around his or her neck reading, “make me feel important.” Giorgio and Mary Kay had it right. The most successful people in any business that depends on human relationships are the ones who know about that invisible sign and have the vision to see how brightly it is flashing. And the true champions know best how to embrace the human being wearing the sign.”

“Ideas at their best happen for people. At their worst they happen to people.”

“Feeling seen and acknowledged is a powerful human need.”

“For most people it’s far more important to feel heard than to be agreed with.”

Not only is this absolutely one of the most important lessons in social media, but it rings so true when talking about management, leadership and really the entire hospitality industry. Many businesses have been built on this idea alone.

Know Your Identity

“It was that they had no clear idea what Eleven Madison Park represented as a dining experience. Was it a bistro or a grand restaurant? Was it inexpensive or for special occasions? Was it French? Was it a place for sandwiches, potato chips, and cookies? Until we had answered those questions for ourselves, we couldn’t avoid confusing our potential customers. Know Thyself: Before you go to market, know what you are selling and to whom. It’s a very rare business that can (or should) be all things to all people. Be the best you can be within a reasonably tight product focus. That will help you to improve yourself and help your customers to know how and when to buy your product.”

Restaurant’s live and die by their identity. The storied past of restaurant failures is often a tale of restaurants failing to ever define what they truly want to be and relentlessly defending their values.

Which quote is your favorite? Join in the convo in the comments or hit me up on Twitter